Ah, Carmel. My “happy place.” Carmel holds a very special place in my heart, as it is where my parents were married in 1973, where my family and I celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in 1993, where Jack surprised me with our first weekend getaway in 2007, and where Jack and I were married in 2012. We make a point of visiting Carmel at least once year, and we have yet to tire of this magical place.
Carmel is located in the county of Monterey, about a 2.5 hour drive south of San Francisco, give or take depending on traffic. The charming “downtown” known as Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular tourist destination, and for good reason: the shops and cottages in this foggy little seaside village look like they’re right out of a storybook. The town is very walkable and is full of great shops, restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and beautiful homes. Carmel-by-the-Sea is quirky: there are no addresses (which is quite inefficient, if you ask me), no street lamps (warning: don’t wear high heels at night), and is full of crazy dog people (myself included). What’s not to love?
Just east of Carmel-by-the-Sea is the quieter, sunnier Carmel Valley, which boasts wineries, fancy resorts and spas, and a pleasant climate (sunny and 75 degrees throughout the summer). The lodging in Carmel Valley far outshines the overpriced kitschy inns and motels in Carmel-by-the-Sea, in my opinion. We prefer to stay in the valley because the hotels offer so many more amenities, though Carmel-by-the-Sea is where we dine and drink.
We were married at Bernardus Lodge in the Carmel Valley; however, this resort has since been purchased by a large hospitality company, renovated, and saw its rates skyrocket. I still think it’s worth the price, but only in the summer months when you’re planning to spend a lot of time at the resort. Otherwise I recommend Quail Lodge, which is closer to Carmel-by-the-Sea (and therefore gets more fog) and is much more affordable. Carmel Valley Ranch is another beautiful (and pricy resort), though I’ve never personally stayed there. If you prefer to stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea, I recommend L’Auberge Carmel, which is a cozy and elegant hotel right in the heart of town.